Happy Adoption Day from The Guire Shire

It Was Twenty Years Ago today

Twenty years ago today, four kiddos got off a plane with Grandude, and my hubby, Jerry, to come to their new home. They had flown from Warsaw, Poland to Chicago, and then to Pittsburgh.

In a hospital, thirty minutes away, my stepfather, Bud was slowly, silently, slipping away – going on to glory (as he would say). As Dickens so poetically pointed out:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Today, twenty years later, I reflect, rejoice, celebrate, and grieve. Those early days after the adoption were the season of light and the season of darkness all rolled into one. Today I celebrate the addition of my four kiddos, as well as grieve the loss of Bud. It was during this season I learned through experience how joy and sorrow could co-exist.

Joy and Sorrow

I experienced the joy of my kiddos in their firsts:

  • Living in a house for the first time
  • Having enough to eat at EVERY meal
  • Sleeping in beds with relative safety (not being beat up or molested in the middle of the night)

If there was any night time activity it was night terror which we tried our best to comfort. We prayed long and hard because we were out of our depth. Or it was Gregory jumping on a sibling, just because he could.

Grieving and Growing

We were all grieving and growing. My kiddos were grieving their old life. Letting go of the past is difficult no matter what sort of past it is. I was grieving because I felt Bud slipping away. He had been my first link to unconditional love. He died a week after the kiddos came home.

Despite our grief, we were growing together, meals at the table, putting on puppet shows, playing with dolls, tea sets, Legos, and race car sets. Playing, reading, and shared family meal times knit us together even though frayed ends stretched and pulled, trying to unravel us. Hateful words. Meltdowns. Night terrors. Hoarding. Medical issues. Survival mode. Disorganized attachment. Before you think I’m only talking about the kiddos, don’t. It was me too. Totally raising my hand.

If you are reading this and thinking, I can’t adopt. It’s too hard. What if I enter a Job syndrome? May I ask you a question? Did you come into the family of God kicking and screaming? Were (or are) old beliefs still hanging on for dear life? Beliefs that tell you:

  • You don’t matter.
  • You are not chosen.
  • God doesn’t love YOU.

If so, you are worth fighting for. Aren’t you? If you’re not sure, the answer is YES! And so is every orphaned, abandoned, and neglected child. As Jesus said, let the children come to me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 9:14 paraphrase). Just as you are worth it, so are those children who need a home. Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, to set the captives (physical and spiritual) free, to open the eyes of the blind, to bind up wounds, and give gladness instead of mourning. We are anointed to do the same. Don’t let the thought of doing hard things stop you from pursuing adoption.

Final Thoughts

If I had a time machine and I could go back to pre-adoption me, would I still adopt? Yes. I’m so proud of my kiddos, who they have become and all the life lessons they have taught me along the way.

Five Things You Can do to Help an Adoptive/Foster Family Part III

Ever wonder what you can do to support adoption/foster care? Maybe you don’t feel as if you can take a child into your home. Maybe you already raised your children and you aren’t ready to start over. It may be that you have a heart for adoption,but it’s not time for you to walk the adoption road, a few more things may need to fall into place. The good news is, you don’t have to adopt/foster to support it. You can support those who do and it’s not terribly difficult.

 External religious worship [[b]religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.” James 1:27

*If you missed the beginning of this series, you can find it here.

3. Don’t have expectations for the new  adopted or foster children.

So many people expected my newbies to smile, to be polite, quote scripture and be soooo thankful.

Don’t.  Just don’t. 

First of all, these are just kids. They are going to act like kids. Second of all many of them have come from difficult situations.

You are big, scary and probably weird looking and smell funny to a little kid. This child may have little or no trust build for his adoptive/foster parent, why would he want to trust you? You might be a bad guy.

My newbies hid from a Polish priest when he spoke their native language-they cowered under a table and behind my legs. This was a good Polish dude, but not to them. He was a trigger, a reminder of the orphanage that they had recently escaped. Thankfully, he brushed it off and smiled and moved on without demanding they answer.

Expect

If you need to have any expectations of the new foster/adopted child your friend or neighbor has brought home, expect them to be on guard. Expect children to need to get to know you before they want to engage in conversation. Get down on their level. Say hello and don’t be put off if there is not a response. Give the child time, not require him to fulfill your imposed expectations.

Five Things You Can Do to Help an Adoptive/Foster Family Part I

Ever wonder what you can do to support adoption/foster care? Maybe you don’t feel as if you can take a child into your home. Maybe you already raised your children and you aren’t ready to start over. It may be that you have a heart for adoption,but it’s not time for you to walk the adoption road, a few more things may need to fall into place. The good news is, you don’t have to adopt/foster to support it. You can support those who do and it’s not terribly difficult.

 External religious worship [[b]religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit andhelp and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.” James 1:27

  1. Host a shower for the foster/adoptive family.shower plate

There are many much needed items when a family welcomes a newborn home. Many of those material needs are filled at a shower or for baby two or three, a sprinkle.

Adoptive/Foster parents often wing this alone (especially when welcoming older children). Foster parents often get a call in the middle of the night that children are being delivered. No warning.

International adoption is trickly too. Parents can wait for years of the call. Nither of the secenarios means the family has what they need. The family’s money may be tied up in lawyer’s fees, birth mother care, travel and in some cases, a home addition to accomodate the newbies.

This is where you come in if you want to help, throw a shower. It doesn’t have to be huge or fancy. My church body threw a small shower for us after the four new Guires came home. I asked specifically that it not be a ‘toy’ shower. Instead, it was household items, which helped me immensly- bulk paper towels, toilet paper, cleaners, some no perishable food items- all of these saved me from running to the store every other day. Seven kids go through a lot of toilet paper, paper towels, clorox wipes and snacks!

A good friend of mine took found John Deere comforters and took it upon herself to buy three sets, including sheets! What a blessing!

These sorts of gifts of ordinary, every day items are priceless to the Mama and Papa who are parenting a new set of children. It is caring for orphans in a tangible way without adopting yourself. Not everyone is called to adopt, but everyone is called to care for orphans. Hosting a shower for adoptive/foster families is a simple way to do just that!

Homeschooling and Adoption (CHEWV Conference)

IMG_0194 CHEWV SIGN IN
Pretending to work during a break

 

This  past weekend I spoke at the CHEWV conference and I promised some ladies I would post my notes on my site today so they could share. Positive Adoption will be back to our theme of the month, PLAY, tomorrow.

I always start my brainstorming process for a speech or topic with a question and when I was asked to speak at CHEWV conference (Christian Home Educators of West Virginia) I started with this question: Why homeschool adopted children?

!. Connection/Attachment

2. Language

3. Relationship with Learning

IMG_0151 CHEWV speaking

Jerry and I traveled to Poland fifteen years ago to adopt a sibling group of four to add to our three biologicals. I’m only sharing a snippet of our story for time’s sake, so if you would like to know the whole story, you can find it in my book, Positive Adoption: A Memoir. The adopted children were seven, six, four and seventeen months to give us stair-steps of twelve, eight, seven, six, five, four and seventeen months. My new children had lived in an orphanage fro the better part of two years, the youngest had lived in the hospital for four months until he was transferred to an orphanage for infants when his health was stable. In other words, my children had little or no home experience. Each of them struggled with attachment issues common to children raised in an institution.

So what does this has to do with homeschooling?

1. Connection

Let’s go back to the beginning.

In the beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth.- Genesis 1:1

In the beginning, God created our children. Each of them has a beginning.

The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2

The earth has a history. Before God spoke it into existence, it was without form and void. There was darkness. Each of our children have a past. They may have darkness. Void. Hurt. Rejection. Abandonment.

After God created the earth and all that is within it, He created man and woman, Adam and Eve. We can look at God’s priorities for His children and follow in His steps. His priority? His intent? Connection. He walked and talked with Adam and Eve. He gave them the gift of Himself and time.

A child adopted internationally or through foster care has a past. What he needs is connection. The attachment cycle is as simple as it is profound. This cycle begins as a newborn. The infant has a need, expresses a need, the need is met, the cycle is complete. This happens over and over. Like a circle, the cycle is complete. A child is hungry, he cries, he is fed. A child has a wet or soiled diaper, he cries and is changed. A child wants to be held, he cries and is held.

Image27 attachment cycle

The child attaches.

When a child comes from a hard place, that is abuse, neglect, abandonment through circumstances or someone else’s choices, the attachment cycle is broken. It doesn’t make that complete circle. The child gets stuck in survival mode, which is just a fancy way of saying, he depends on himself to meet his needs. He becomes the master of control.

Children raised in institutions or moved from placement to placement usually have attachment issues. In order for these children to attach to new parents, this cycle must be completed over and over. In essence, the parents must go back to the beginning, to where there is darkness in the child’s life and bring the light of attachment. In order to do this, the parent must be present. Dr. Purvis, the author of The Connected Child, recommends that parents stay at home with the new children for three-months, cocooning,meeting the child’s needs (I say the  longer the better). The parents must meet the child’s needs in order for them to attach. Feed the child. Bathe the child. Read bedtime stories. The cycle will begin to complete. Over and over.

Homeschooling is the best option for the child with attachment issues because it gives the child the one commodity you cannot get back, time. Time spent at home gives parents loads of opportunities to attach. You attach when you prepare meals, the children beside you, helping, shoulder to shoulder or shoulder to hip, setting the table, cleaning off the table, reading on the couch snuggled together, sorting laundry, etc..

The child has needs,you meet the needs,the child, the child attaches to you, not someone at school, or worse, stays stuck in survival mode.

IMG_0112 CHEWV table 3

2. Language.

When the Gentile converts joined the early church, they didn’t know the language of the Gospel. It was new to them. They had a new-found love, a new family of brothers and sisters in Christ and they begged for the language this new family spoke. “Teach us! Tell us what we must do!” (Major paraphrasing here) The apostles knew the language of love was too overwhelming to teach all at once and the old habits were too much to tackle all at once, so they boiled it down to this:

But we should send word to them in writing to abstain from and avoid anything that has been polluted by being offered to idols, and all sexual impurity, and [eating meat of animals] that have been strangled, and [tasting of] blood.-  Acts 15:20

The apostles did not want to lay great burdens on the new converts. So, they chose two requirements to start with. The new converts didn’t speak the language of grace and the Gospel yet and neither did my new Guires. In fact they spoke a foreign language (much like the new converts)

The language obstacle was quite a hurdle. My go-to-phrase,”Pkaz me (show me),” wasn’t going to work forever. I called my friend Kelley, long time homeschooler and Sonlight adviser and asked her advice, “READ, READ, READ.” She went on to add, “read it to them whether they understand it or not.” Andrew Pudewa says, “You cannot get something out of a child’s brain that isn’t in there….Getting something into a brain is a prerequisite of getting it out.”

I began reading to my children above their level of comprehension. We read Johnny Tremain, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, A Cricket in Times Square, The Sign of the Beaver, Walk the World’s Rim and more that first year. The kids colored or played with Legos while I read. And the amazing thing, they stopped me and asked questions, albeit in broken English, they were learning, “Why he go there? Why he do that? You mean he die?”

Polish wasn’t the only language my newbies spoke. While they were learning the English language through hearing it and conversing with siblings, there was another language that needed addressed.They spoke the language of anger, of bitterness. It came out in tirades, cursing. When it got to the point that my children were using Polish as angry-speak, I set my food down. “No more Polish! English only!”

Gregory came to me later, “Mom, Damian not listen to what you say. He speak Polish.”

“Oh,” I replied, “what did he say?”

“He say Coca Cola!”

It is through the mediums of connection and language that we receive the Gospel. Connection (sonship) and language (the language of the Word) that is able to save our souls. The early Gentile converts craved this Word. They knew it was needed to change their habits, their suppositions and practices. It is the same for our children. They must hear the language of the Gospel at home. They must leave old thinking and being patterns behind. In order to do this, these patterns must be replaced with something new.

When Ania was four, she was a thief (yes, this story is told with her approval). She had a cute turquoise backpack that I had bought for her. She wore that backpack all day long. And all day long, she picked up toys, candy, whatever she found around the house and put it in her pack. At the end of each day, I had an added bedtime ritual, helping Ania empty her backpack and return the items to the rightful owner. I couldn’t be angry or expect her to know better. You see, no one had told her that what she was doing was wrong. Growing up in an orphanage where communism was the rule of the day, ownership was a new language to her. She needed to learn it slowly. The best place for her to learn the new language was at home. I had to be present and patient. Homeschooling is a great option for both of these.

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3. Relationship with Learning

My newbies spoke Polish. They each had developmental and a capital letter syndrome or two, FAS, RAD, Sensory issues and the like. We faced these issues daily. My kids were warriors at battling to pay attention. Hypervigliance got the best of them some days and they couldn’t make heads or tails over a math problem or a spelling word. I learned through trial, error and many frustrating hours that at those times, some other need was more important than the spelling or math. They may have been frightened by a strange car driving past or any incident that triggered a memory. What my kids needed was felt-safety. They needed to feel safe. A child who is overwhelmed by outside stimuli cannot learn. He is too busy coping. My kids needed to find that felt-safety in order to develop a relationship with learning that wasn’t frightening.

If you are reading this and thinking, this woman is a saint, she has it all together and raised all those children, just pause, knock that halo off my head and listen. I’m not perfect. I didn’t do things perfectly. I make mistakes. I stumble. I fall. This speech wasn’t about how to raise perfect children or what the perfect way is. This is a great way to raise hurt children and help them on the path to healing and wholeness.. Homeschooling is a great way to accomplish this. It’s not an easy way. it is a hard, lace- up- your -combat- boots- every- day -way. But isn’t every worthwhile endeavor worth the work?

Confession: My youngest has some severe leaning challenges. Days can be difficult. Some days have some rays of sunshine and I try to focus on them. In the middle of this school year, I talked to a school- psychologist and a child psychologist about putting this boy in the school system for his last few years of schooling. After listening to my stories and knowing the litany of his challenges, they both advised me to keep doing what I’m doing. “He would be too overwhelmed to learn anything,” one of them said and that statement rings true in my heart. I know it to be a fact. The truth is, I’m scared sometimes that I am not doing enough or that I will just give up and say, “this is too hard,” I sometimes give into those thoughts and follow them down a dark, depressing path, then the spirit whispers the truth and I get back on track. The truth is, God gave me this child to parent and I am doing the best I can with what I have and He will do the rest.

The love or learning can only be birthed through a great relationship with learning. It comes from the spark of a question. Children asking questions is a great thing. It means they want to learn. When they do, we parents need to answer as many as we can and direct them to finding out answers. This is a life-long habit. I love seeing this habit in my adult children. When Amerey came for a visit the other day, we ended up in the library with bird handbooks strewn all over the table as we tried to find a  yellow bird with a black head. “Oh, my bird handbook!” she exclaimed happily as she pulled it off the shelf.

Homeschooling offers the ability to pursue delight directed learning: the science of cars, the science of photography, engineering, ornithology…these are just a few of the subjects we have covered along with the required subjects.

These three reasons, connection, language, relationship with learning are great reasons to homeschool adopted children from hard places. We go to the beginning and God’s original intent, relationship and connection with his children which leads us to the language of love, the Words of the Gospel which transform us because of the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s only Son, our brother, which in turn leads us to a new relationship with learning. This new relationship is free of fear because perfect love casts out all fear. Our children are freed from the bondage of their history, one baby step at a time, they walk into their future.

*I added some photos of the Moms’ Tea. What a refreshing, encouraging time!

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IMG_0284 CHEW TEA 5

IMG_0264 CHEWV TEA 4

My Favorite Adoption Books by Category

My Favorite Adoption Books by Category

1. Memoirs

cover

More about my memoir here. 

memoirYou can read an interview with author Aaron Eske here.

2. Educational- the dog- eared books that I pull out often!

51oBlN+J5SL._SS500_Parenting the Hurt Child

Dr. Karyn Purvis (co-author of The Connected Child) has, by far, the best training program for raising children from hard places. Any parent can learn TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) through the videos series. Another great option is finding an Empowered to Connect conference near you.

3.Favorite Adoption Theology book (also dog-eared)

adopted for Life

“Love of any kind brings risk, and, in a fallen world, brings hurt. Simeon tells our Lord’s mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, that a sword would pierce her heart. That’s true, in some sense for every mother, every father. Even beyond that, every adoption, every orphan, represents a tragedy. someone was killed, someone left, someone was impoverished, or someone was diseased. Wrapped up in each situation is some kind of hurt, and all that accompanies that. That’s the reason there really is no adoption that is not “special needs” adoption; you just might not know on the front end what those special needs are.”- Russell Moore

4. My favorite Adoption Children’s book

Bye Bye Baby

The story of a baby who is sad and sets off one day in search of a mummy. He meets many people and animals who refuse to become his mummy, but offer to help him in his search. They find a lady who has no baby and she agrees to be the baby’s mummy. Then the search begins for a daddy

Linking up with Adoption Talk!

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